The leader of the Catholic Church organized a summit over the weekend to decry fossil fuels, indicating a prioritization of climate change issues, but has remained silent on Ireland’s referendum legalizing abortion.
Pope Francis has adopted the mantle of climate change activist since taking the reins of the Catholic Church. The 266th pope claims he chose his title from St. Francis of Assisi in large part because of the medieval saint’s devotion to the natural world.
“Francis was a man of peace, a man of poverty, a man who loved and protected creation,” the pope explained in 2013. He also took a veiled swipe at President Donald Trump last year for withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.
His reverence for the environment and the poor was put on display during a two-day summit at the Vatican where he invited numerous oil executives and investment bankers, encouraging them to walk away from fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy.
Vatican visitors included oil and gas executives like BP CEO Bob Dudley, Equinor CEO Eldar Saetre and ExxonMobil Chief Executive Darren Woods. Other participants included big names in the investment industry. The conference featured nearly 20 speakers and was organized in part by the University of Notre Dame.
“Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization,” Francis said during the climate change summit, which lasted from Friday to Saturday. He went on to say that the poor “suffer most from the ravages of global warming” because of extreme weather and water shortages. (RELATED: Pope Francis To Meet With ExxonMobil)
The Vatican meeting came nearly three years after the publication of the pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’, where the Catholic leader decried global warming as a threat to life on Earth and said it is mainly caused by human activity.
However, as Francis continues his environmentalist push, he has notably remained quiet on an issue of great importance to Catholics: the abortion referendum in Ireland. Last month, the once-Catholic dominant country voted overwhelmingly to legalize abortion, undoing a decades-old ban on the practice and highlighting the church’s waning influence.
“Across Western Europe, the church’s once mighty footprint has faded, in no small measure because of self-inflicted clerical sex abuse scandals and an inability to keep up with and reach contemporary Catholics,” The New York Times wrote on May 27, the day after the historic vote. “And yet, Francis is not sounding the alarm or calling the faithful to the ramparts. He seems resigned to accept that a devout and Catholic Europe has largely slipped into the church’s past … If the landslide vote in Ireland bothered Francis, he didn’t show it on Sunday afternoon.”
Francis has reportedly given up on the idea of a Catholic revival in Europe, believing the continent has too deeply embraced secularism. The Catholic leader has relegated his efforts to maintaining influence in South America, Africa and other Third World regions.
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